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Ireland U20s off to losing start in Six Nations against clinical Wales

Nigel Carolan’s men will be frustrated by the manner in which they conceded scores.

Ireland 24

Wales 35

IRELAND’S U20 SIX Nations campaign got off to a disappointing start as Wales came away from Donnybrook with a deserved 35-24 four-try win in what was an entertaining game.

Will Connors tackled by Harrison Keddie Will Connors goes airbourne after Harrison Keddie's tackle. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Captained by the excellent James Ryan, the Irish side showed promise with their willingness to offload and a strong physical presence in the first half, but basic errors stymied their effort.

The Welsh were clinical in taking their chances, even when the momentum of play seemed in Ireland’s favour, as their greater experience – both at this level and in senior regional rugby – told. Out-half Dan Jones, who has featured in the Pro12 for Scarlets, was superb in directing their play.

Three tries through Cillian Gallagher, Kelvin Brown and Shane Daly were reward for Ireland’s intent to attack, while scrum-half John Poland was named man of the match after a lively performance.

Nigel Carolan’s men certainly have major scope for improvement next weekend when they travel to France, particularly after giving up easy scores this evening.

Ireland drew first blood when out-half Johnny McPhillips fired over an early penalty and the strong start was extended even further when Carolan’s side conjured a delightful first try inside the opening seven minutes.

After the Welsh kicked the ball away down the left, Ireland played a lovely back-door pass out to McPhillips, whose diagonal kick pass found left wing Hugo Keenan in acres of space near the halfway line.

He strode forward, drew in a scrambling Welsh defender and freed Jimmy O’Brien to nearly burst all the way to the tryline. As he was tackled into touch, the inside centre offloaded the ball to deck, but Connacht back row Gallagher cleverly slid in to scoop the ball up, over the tryline and back to ground.

Cillian Gallager celebrates scoring the first try of the game Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Referee Thomas Charabas confirmed the score with his TMO, but McPhillips was off target with a difficult touchline conversion.

Ireland were caught offside to allow the Welsh onto the scoreboard through a Jones penalty, and suddenly momentum shifted. The visitors won a big scrum penalty in the right corner, celebrating like they’d scored a try, then battered their way through phases off the lineout, ending with hooker Dafydd Hughes sneaking over from close range.

Jones’ conversion sent the Welsh 10-8 in front.

Soon after, a superb breakout started by Brown’s burst and offload after he temporarily replaced Max Deegan was continued by centre Daly, who threw a magical offload inside to Poland to feed Gallagher. Wales were pinged in their desperate attempts to pilfer the ball as play broke down and McPhillips made it 11-10 from the tee.

Ireland failed to release in the tackle to allow Jones to put the Welsh back in front, but another strong attacking thrust from Carolan’s men – with Ryan prominent – was ended with a no-arms tackle from Hughes and the home team pushed back in front coming towards the break.

However, the Welsh had the last say of the opening 40 as McPhillips’ clearing kick after an Adam McBurney turnover failed to find touch and the Welsh countered. After pounding at the Irish defence, openside Shaun Evans cleverly slipped lock Adam Beard into a glaring hole for their second try, converted by Jones.

Trailing 20-14 at the break, Ireland needed a strong start to the second but shot themselves in the foot instead. After a turnover inside their own 22, Carolan’s men attempted to run the ball out and saw Jones pick off Poland’s pass attempt for a soft try.

The conversion was missed and Ireland conjured a response, stemming from McBurney’s break and no-look offload to Poland, who found McPhillips in support. Wales came offside in their scramble to recover and Ireland went to the corner.

A powerful maul then hammered over the tryline with Shannon man Brown, on permanently at this point, steering home the score. McPhillips couldn’t convert, but Ireland were back to in contention until Chabaras harshly sin binned Peter Claffey.

John Poland with Rhun Williams Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The Irish lock was punished for what the French referee viewed as deliberately stepping into Jones’ path as he chased his own chip. The Welsh out-half added injury to insult, having gone to ground rather easily, by popping over the three points for a 28-19 lead.

Before Ireland were returned to 15 men, the Welsh had their fourth try. Deegan blocked down lively replacement scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, but the Welshman regathered and fed the ball wide for sub wing Joe Thomas to batter through two weak Irish tackles and free centre Harri Millard inside to touch down.

Jones’ last action was to convert for a 35-19 lead. While Wales were unlikely to lose the game from there, Ireland did finish with a flourish as Munster midfielder Daly crossed in the left corner.

Ireland face into their trip to France aware that a reduced error count can lead them to success.

Ireland scorers:

Tries: Cillian Gallagher, Kelvin Brown, Shane Daly

Conversions: Johnny McPhillips [0 from 2], Brett Connon [o from 1]

Penalties: Johnny McPhillips [3 from 3]

Wales scorers:

Tries: Dafydd Hughes, Adam Beard, Dan Jones, Harri Millard

Conversions: Dan Jones [3 from 4]

Penalties: Dan Jones [3 from 3]

IRELAND: Jack Power (Brett Connon ’77); Matthew Byrne, Shane Daly, Jimmy O’Brien, Hugo Keenan; Johnny McPhillips (Conor O’Brien ’66), John Poland (Stephen Kerins ’74); Andrew Porter (James Bollard ’77), Adam McBurney (Shane Fenton ’74), Conan O’Donnell (Conor Kenny); Peter Claffey (yellow card ’56) (Sean O’Connor ’66), James Ryan (captain); Cillian Gallagher, Will Connors (Kelvin Brown ‘HT), Max Deegan (HIA – Kelvin Brown ’23 to ’33).

WALES: Rhun Williams; Elis-Wyn Benham (Bryce Morgan ’77), Harri Millard, Owen Watkin, Keelan Giles (Joe Thomas ’59); Dan Jones (Jarrod Evans ’65), Declan Smith (Reuben Morgan-Williams ’52); Corey Domachowski (Robert Lewis ’78), Dafydd Hughes (Ifan Phillips), Dillon Lewis (Leon Brown ’74); Shane Lewis-Hughes, Adam Beard; Tom Phillips (captain), Shaun Evans (Morgan Sieniawski ’74), Harrison Keddie.

Referee: Thomas Charabas.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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